Original post from August 2019
Updated December 2022
The Commonwealth of Australia, the world’s smallest continent and
largest island, is a diverse country with vast iconic natural wonders
like the Great Barrier Reef and the Outback, and heavily concentrated
cities such as Sydney and Melbourne. Being a newly established country
in 1901, it was easy for the country to develop its own cultural
personality. Although the culture can be described as Western with
indigenous influences, foreigners may be surprised by the quirks and
personal touches that Australians have made over time to the standards
of their Western lifestyle.
A significant contributor to Western culture is the multinational and
famed sport of rugby. Although Australia is well-known for being very
much involved in competing internationally in rugby, they are famous
for playing their own version as well, Australian
football. Australian football can be described as a mixture of
rugby, soccer, and American football, with an oval-shaped field and
goalposts that resemble those of American football. To score points,
players kick the ball through the set of goalposts that are on either
end of the field. One of the most intriguing differences in this sport
is that the players can pass to their teammates by kicking the ball or
punching it with their palms, but they cannot throw it. Additionally,
although Australian football is a contact sport, they do not wear any
padding, only a jersey uniform. Australian football is a very
entertaining and popular sport to watch. For this reason, it is a
notable contributor to the country’s economy. The Australian Football
League (AFL) reported revenue of AUD$480 million in 2015.
Economically, Australia is revered as the wealthiest
(per adult) country in the world, with a decently low poverty rate of
13.2% as of 2018.
The United States plays a particularly important role in the economy
of Australia, being that it remains their largest
two-way trading partner in goods and services. This is a result
of the Australian-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA)
that was established in 2005. The passing of this agreement has since
the trade flow by 91%.
As a result of
AUSFTA, there is no surprise that American businesses seek to further
strengthen the trade relationship between the two countries. Business
opportunities in Australia are of wide variety and significance.
However, the quirky culture can often be intimidating for business
persons from other countries. There are three key aspects to
understand that will enhance a business trip to Australia by providing
a deeper appreciation of the country: the business culture, mentality,
Australian Business Culture
Meetings in Australia can seem different from those typically held in
the United States. To start, they are considerably
more laid back. It is typical for Australian business persons to
use colorful language (curse words) in meetings, as well as, crack
jokes to lighten the mood. Additionally, it is common to be addressed
by only your first name, and it is expected that you do the same. Even
though it may not seem like it, Australians
do take these business affairs seriously. Therefore, it is
important to dress the part and be prepared for your meeting. If you
are presenting a proposition or sitting as a chairman, it is expected
that you be punctual and show up to the meeting a few minutes early.
Also, be sure to chat about things like the weather or sports to relax
Modesty and Understanding
A key factor in the business culture of Australia is modesty.
Australians are very modest about their job position; it is very
unattractive to them when a foreigner emphasizes their title and the
greatness of their business. For this reason, it is recommended to not
use an aggressive sales technique to persuade a potential partner, as
most of the time it will not work. Avoid overselling your company, or
coming off as self-important. It is more persuasive if the facts are
laid out for them with a friendly
attitude. But even if you do execute your sale in this way, they
still may clearly express that they are not interested; Australian
business persons are known to be very blunt and honest when
considering a business contract. It is important to prepare for a
straightforward rejection. Of course, this response will not be rude,
but rather, more diplomatic.
Nevertheless, it may take longer than expected to receive this
response. This is because businesses in Australia value a team
environment. The top management of a corporation will most likely consult
their subordinates before deciding. No matter your position in
the company, Australian businesses are very considerate of everyone’s
opinion and expect that it be shared. Patience and understanding are
key in these situations.
Business Etiquette in Australia
Gifts are not expected at business interactions but are greatly
appreciated when given
at the correct time. In Australia, it is commonly understood as
bribing when a person brings a gift to a meeting before the close of a
deal. If you decide to give a gift, simply have one prepared if a
close or agreement arises. This will come off as congratulations and
will be admired.
Additionally, if invited out to dinner or drinks, do not begin to
discuss business unless the counterpart does so. It can be seen as
rude, or pushy if a business person attempts to bring a pitch to the
table because it can cause stress and create a serious atmosphere.
If you are planning a trip to Australia for business purposes, it is
recommended to understand the unique business culture, mentality, and
etiquette of the country. A comprehensive education of these elements
of their lifestyle will allow more of a relationship and connection to
develop between two business persons of different backgrounds. And, if
you have some free time in Australia, attempt to catch an Australian
football game - you will not be disappointed.
Learn more about the country, trade, and culture of Australia by
registering for the Business Travelers Series: Navigating Australia on
February 15, 2023 from 9am - 10am EST. This virtual event is
generously sponsored by The
Gerald R. Ford
Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Interested in Traveling to Australia?
Contact the Michigan Economic Development Corporation today to
the Michigan and Pennsylvania co-hosted trade
mission to Sydney and Melbourne, Australia with an option to visit
MI-STEP Funding From MEDC
Did you know that qualifying Michigan companies have the opportunity
to receive STEP funds for International Trade Missions and Trade Shows
like this one?
To find out if your company is eligible new companies must complete
and submit an online intake form here. Existing
clients can contact your regional international trade manager. Funds
will be approved for specific and measurable export initiatives. Funds
for the MI-STEP program are subject to availability. Learn more about the MI-STEP program here.
About the Contributor
Mackenzie was an undergraduate student at Grand Valley State
University and a student assistant at the Grand Valley State
University’s Van Andel Global Trade Center. She majored in
International Business and Finance while minoring in Spanish.
January 5, 2023
By Benjamin David
Originally posted December 19, 2018
The holiday season is here again! GVSU’s Van Andel Global Trade
Center would like to celebrate with you by sharing some of the
holidays and festivals you can find around the world this month.
Every year, millions of people celebrate the birth of Jesus on
December 25th. The celebration of Christmas began in the
Roman Empire, though methods of celebration vary
greatly around the world.
In the West, for example, Christmas trees are popular; the tradition
started in Strasbourg, Germany (now part of France) where fir trees
were decorated with apples. In Eritrea, neighborhoods will purchase
cows and have a community feast together. It is popular for Japanese
families to enjoy their Christmas meal at Kentucky Fried Chicken,
following an ad campaign in the 1970s. The Icelandic Yuletide Lads,
mischievous little elves who climb down the mountains into towns, play
tricks and leave children presents; while, it is a popular tradition
to roller-skate to church for the weeks leading up to the
25th in Venezuela. There are many more weird and wonderful
international traditions like these.
St. Nicholas Day
Celebrated every year on either December 5th or
Nicholas day celebrates…St. Nick! St. Nicholas was the bishop of
the city of Myra during the 4th century who was renowned
for his generosity. Popular during the Middle Ages, St. Nicholas fell
somewhat into obscurity after the Protestant Reformation. The Dutch,
however, continued to celebrate “Sinterklaas”, as they refer to St.
Nick. Every year on his feast day, Sinterklaas would give candy to all
the good children of the Netherlands, and provide the bad ones with
coal, as well as potatoes and sticks.
From the Netherlands, Sinterklaas was celebrated in the Dutch colony
of New Amsterdam, where the tradition remained after the British
acquired the port city and renamed it New York. There, “Sinterklaas”
became “Santa Claus” and was merged into Christmas celebrations. Back
in Europe, St. Nicholas Day remains popular in Belgium, Luxembourg,
and the Netherlands, as well as parts of Germany France, and Italy.
Typically, on the night before St. Nicholas Day, children place a shoe
or a boot in front of the fireplace. In the morning, they wake
up and discover that St. Nicholas has left them a shoe full of candy
and cookies (or potatoes). In Bari, Italy, where St. Nicholas is
buried, the day is accompanied by gift-giving and a parade.
On Christmas Eve, families of Polish descent will hold Wigilia, a
large feast celebrating the birth of Jesus. Typically, families will
spend the days prior to preparing for the feast, comprised of either
seven, nine, or eleven courses. Before sitting down, everyone breaks a
piece of bread from a traditional wafer and wishes for health, wealth,
and happiness. It’s a tradition that an odd number of people cannot be
sitting at the table at any point during the meal, and that an extra
place at the table is set for Jesus. Meals are meatless except for
fish, and traditional Polish dishes such as pierogi and babka are served.
Every December 26th, Boxing Day comes around. Although, if
the 26th falls on a weekend, the following Monday will be
the day of celebration. Boxing Day is
popular in the United Kingdom, as well as in Commonwealth nations such
as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Originally, Boxing Day was the
day that the wealthy and the royals would give gifts to their servants
and tradespeople, as well as a general day of charity to the poor.
Today, Boxing Day is marked by bonuses given to employees and sporting
events such as horse races and rugby matches. It is also common to
enjoy a second dinner of leftovers made from the big Christmas meal.
For eight days starting on the 25th day of the Jewish
month of Kislev (which began on December 2nd in 2018),
Jewish communities celebrate Hanukkah. This is the celebration of the rededication of a Jewish temple
in 165 BCE after it was desecrated by an invading army. The most
well-known Hanukkah tradition is the lighting of the Menorah, which
represents the story of “the Oil in the Temple”. As the story goes,
on the first night after the desecration of the temple, there was only
enough oil left to light the sacred menorah for a single day. This
small amount of oil, however, lasted for eight days, the perfect
amount of time for more consecrated oil to be brought to the temple
and keep the Menorah lit.
In Israel, Hanukkah is celebrated with parties and songs, as well as
a few particularly unique traditions. Every Hanukkah, the relay from
Modi’in takes place, in which runners carrying torches run from
Modi’in to the Western Wall, the only part of the original temple that
still stands. Many different foods are eaten during Hanukkah such
as Latkes and sufganiyot. Children are also given
gifts and chocolate coins and spin the dreidel.
Searching for ways to bring the African American community together
after the Walt Riots in Los Angeles in 1966, Dr. Maulana Karenga
created Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa
is a celebration of African heritage and culture, primarily recognized
in the United States, but does have observers around the world.
Celebrated from December 26th until January 1st,
Kwanzaa focuses on African tradition and values known as the seven
principals. These are unity, self-determination, collective
responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
The kinara is a traditional candleholder with seven candles, colored
red, green, and black, which represent the seven principals. The
candles are lit, and the family joins in a discussion over the theme
for that day. On December 31st, families hold a feast
called a karamu, and often wear traditional African clothing.
St. Lucia Day
St. Lucia Day is a Scandinavian
holiday celebrated in Norway and Sweden, as well as in Norwegian
and Swedish speaking communities abroad. Honoring St. Lucia, a
Christian martyr, the day is intended to usher in light in a time of
the year where, depending on how far north you are, the sun may never
rise. During the celebration, a family will dress one of their
daughters in white, and she will serve coffee and baked goods to her
family and guests.
Festival is a Caribbean festival celebrated on December
26th. Jonkonnu is a specific kind of dance created to blend
traditional African and English dance that originated among slaves in
the Bahamas, Belize, Bermuda, Guyana, Jamaica, and St. Kitts &
Nevis. Dancers and musicians wearing homemade costumes with
traditional African and English imagery parade to public areas and
hold community dances. Today, it’s also more common for communities to
hold dance and costume competitions on that day.
No matter how you celebrate, GVSU’s Van Andel Global Trade
Center hopes that your holiday season is filled with cheer!
About the Contributor
Benjamin David was an undergraduate student at Grand Valley State
University and a Student Assistant at Van Andel Global Trade Center.
He was an International Relations and Economics major and a German
minor. He plans to go to law school after graduation and hopes he may
eventually work at the U.S. State Department. Ben loves
discussing cars, airplanes, and languages.
December 19, 2022
How can small businesses grow their customer base and increase
When local markets are facing tough times or simply not bringing in
enough revenue, the next step in expanding a small business and
increasing revenue is to start exporting goods to access new global markets.
Common Concerns about Exporting
Exporting, however, may seem quite daunting and expensive to the
inexperienced individual. Fortunately, there are several financial
resources, mentors, and consultants available for small businesses to
utilize to create an export strategy and set up export operations
unique to their business needs.
Setting up and maintaining export operations does require an
investment of both time and money, but with 95% of the world’s
consumers outside of the U.S., it has the potential to turn into a
profitable investment. If traditional bank financing doesn’t fit your
business needs, there are different types of loan programs that help
in setting up and/or maintaining export plans and provide alternatives
to traditional loan options to fund export endeavors.
Programs funded through the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA)
that small businesses should be aware of include:
SBA loans are provided through banks, but SBA guarantees a
substantial portion of the loan – up to 90% – making it more likely to
get accepted than a traditional, non-SBA-backed loan.
State Trade Expansion Program (STEP)
One of the most easily accessible financial assistance options
available for exporting is the STEP program.
The State Trade Expansion Program (STEP)
is a completely different category than the other loan program since
technically it’s not a loan at all. Though the money given to the
state government is awarded by SBA, it is ultimately the individual
state’s economic development department that distributes these funds–
no repayment is required.
State-level STEP assistance helps small businesses:
- Learn how to export
- Participate in foreign trade missions and trade shows
- Obtain services to support foreign market entry
- Develop websites to attract foreign buyers
- Design international marketing products or campaigns
Roughly 46 of the 50 states were awarded STEP funds, including
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut,
Delaware, Georgie, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas,
Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts,
Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New
Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North
Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode
Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington,
West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Michigan’s STEP program, MI-STEP,
administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, offers
up to $15,000 in export assistance that covers up to 75% of export
eligible expenses. For more information on MI-STEP, check out our blog
Small Businesses Are Missing Out on Free Money: Why You Should
Take Advantage of MI-STEP
Coverage rates and total assistance varies by state, check your
for exact export assistance information.
International Trade Loan Program
The most expansive of these would be the International
Trade Loan Program. Companies can be approved to borrow a
maximum of $5 million through this program with a processing time of
roughly 5 - 10 business days.
These loans are available to help small businesses enter
international markets and compete with businesses already present in
the market. It works by combining fixed assets, working capital
financing, and debt refinancing for the maximum amount of assistance.
Export Working Capital Program
Working Capital Program is similar to the International Trade
Loan Program in that there is a $5 million maximum borrowing limit and
5 - 10 day processing time, but the purpose is slightly different.
People applying for this loan already have a finalized sale or export
contract in hand and just need the extra funds to seal the deal. This
venture is ultimately a bit less risky than going into a market blind
– like the prior program – which makes the approval process easier.
Export Express Loan Program
The Export Express
Loan Program allows small businesses to get loans accepted within
36 hours with the trade-off of only being able to borrow $500,000 or less.
The reason turnaround time is so quick is that Export Express lenders
can directly underwrite a loan without SBA prior approval.
Meet Your Export Mentors
For businesses interested in learning how to export their goods and
explore funding opportunities and resources available for this
endeavor, GVSU’s Van Andel Global Trade Center along with state and
federal partners from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation
(MEDC), Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Department of Commerce - Grand Rapids, Michigan Small
Business Development Center, Export-Import Bank of the United States, Networks
Small Business Association (SBA), and more, are offering four
opportunities to join us for our New to
Export Workshops throughout the state of Michigan in 2023, visit
our event page for dates and details
is a Student Assistant at
GVSU’s Van Andel Global Trade Center
She is a Junior currently pursuing a Bachelor in Business
Administration degree in Finance, Human Resource Management, and
General Management at Grand Valley State University. She enjoys
lifting weights, getting lost in a good video game, spending time
with friends, and going on long hikes.
December 14, 2022
By: Natalie Bremmer
United States relations with Russia have never been the best, but
Russian threats and advancements into Ukrainian territory have put
extreme tensions on the minor singular ounce of stability that was
In the following months, pre-to-current invasion, the U.S. worked
tirelessly amongst themselves and in collaboration with other
countries to impose a variety of sanctions on Russia in an effort to
slow this ruthless attack.
Check out the timeline of events below to get up-to-date on what has
been going on with Russia.
The first, most notable event in this timeline of sanctions started
21, 2022, where, within pro-Russian Donetskaya
Narodnaya Respublika (DNR) and Luhanskaya Narodnaya Respublika (LNR)
regions of Ukraine, new investments, trade, and financing from U.S.
personnel to this region had been stopped; the reason being that there
were Russian forces already in these areas and the Russian government
kept spreading false information of Ukrainian aggression towards them.
Not even three days later, on
24, 2022, Russia publicly invaded Ukraine. Within
this same day, the U.S. passed
a series of sanctions including:
- Freezing several
Russian banks and rejecting any future transactions; VTB Banks
and Public Joint Stock Company Sberbank of Russia to name a few
- Putting financial limitations on several Russian elites,
oligarchs, and private entities
- Limitations or complete bans on
roughly 24 Belarusian people and entities; most banks,
defense, and security suppliers, and defense officials
- Restrictions on the export of semiconductors, computers, lasers,
and other technologies
Two days later, on February 26, 2022, the United
States, European Union, United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, France, Italy,
and Germany all
imposed a sanction removing select Russian banks from the
Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT)
program to limit their access to reserves. In addition to this, they
also aimed to stop key Russian entities from getting citizenship in
other countries to avoid already imposed sanctions.
March consisted of a flurry of several more sanctions. One of the
most notable ones was banning
the importation of Russian oil, coal, and liquified natural gas
which was announced on March 8, 2022.
Other relevant sanctions included travel
bans going into Russia, banning transactions between the different
businesses within the defense,
marine, aerospace, and electronics sectors in Russia and Belarus
to United States entities, restricting more than 300 high-class and
powerful Russian figures, and solidifying financial sanctions against
Russia that were already put in place in addition to some new ones.
During this same month, the United States, European Union, United
Kingdom, Japan, Canada, France, Italy, and Germany reconvened in two
separate meetings to announce
increased import tariffs on Russia, eliminating their World Trade
Organization membership benefits, and denying them access to World
Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to eliminate their
Sanctions introduced in April further separated Russia from the most
profitable sectors within the U.S., including:
- Russian darknet and ransomware
entities; Hydra and Garantex
- Alrosa, the largest Russian diamond mining company
- Banning Russian and Russian-affiliated vessels from entering U.S. waters
- Russian virtual
currency mining companies; Transkapitalbank, Bitriver,
Tsargrad, and more
- Temporary denial orders towards Russian aircraft carriers
Aeroflot, Azur Air, and UTair for evading previous sanctions
However, one of the most notable events during this month was the two
laws President Biden passed on April 8, 2022.
The first, named “Ending
Importation of Russian Oil Act”, bans the importation of any
energy-related products classified under Chapter 27 of the Harmonized
Tariff Schedule from the Russian Federation. This law also strictly
prohibits investments in anything that would aid Russia in the
takeover of Ukraine.
It is, however, written into this law that the acting president would
be able to lift this ban after 90 days of submitting a certification
The second law, titled “Suspending
Normal Trade Relations with Russia and Belarus Act”, removed
both Russia and Belarus from the ‘Normal Trade Relations’ – Column 1 –
of the Harmonized Trade Schedule and placed them in Column 2 with much
higher rates than Normal Trade Relation countries.
The majority of the written portion of this law was explaining their
reasoning for the column shift; essentially how the United States and
Ukraine are both members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), how
Russia was also part of the World Trade Organization at the beginning
of the invasion, and then how not only did Russia’s invasion into
Ukraine, denied Ukrainians of their right to independence and
sovereignty but also continues to threaten international relations and
hampers Ukraine’s ability to participate in the World Trade
Organization. Since Belarus has been providing very public support to
Russia during this time, they were also moved to Column 2.
On January 1, 2024, Russia and Belarus are scheduled to be
reclassified under Column 1 and once again receive Normal Trade
Similar to the first law, the president can submit a proclamation to
move both Russia and Belarus back to Column 1 rates which would take
place 90 days after the submission date and would last no longer than
The passing of sanctions in May slowed significantly compared to
March and April, but a few notable events took place regardless.
On May 8, 2022, the Leaders
of The Group of Seven – United States, United Kingdom, Japan,
Canada, France, Italy, and Germany – gathered in Berlin with the
president of Ukraine and agreed on five more key elements to put into
effect as new or improved sanctions to cripple the Russian war effort.
The biggest driving point was a permanent phasing out of dependence
on Russian energy, including oil.
The other decrees included:
- continuing with sanctions against Russian banks
- banning the export of key services to Russia that could help with
- fight Russian propaganda by limiting the revenue private companies
can transfer to Russia and their affiliates, and
- continue with sanctions against the extremely wealthy and all of
their family members that support President Putin in this conflict
9, 2022, more strict restrictions were added to
existing sanctions (enacted on March 3, 2022) on American exported
goods – mostly wood products and construction machinery – that were
originally meant to slow down Russia’s oil production but were
slightly repurposed to stop the replenishment of war materials.
On the same day, the
tariffs on Ukrainian steel that were put in place by
ex-President Trump were temporarily lifted for one year.
Closer to the end of the month, May 24, 2022, the U.S.
Treasury blocks Russian entities from paying debts back to
bondholders or, in more generous cases, increased interest by as much
as 50% from their original totals.
June consisted mostly of fine-tuning sanctions that were already
imposed in prior months.
June 2, 2022, was quite an eventful day– including
adding 71 more entities to the sanction list which included mostly ‘military
end-users,’ freezing more
assets stored around the globe of wealthy and influential Russian
individuals, and adding more export
controls to limit items used for Russian military purposes, and
further explaining U.S. export controls to allies with a readout
by Deputy Secretary Don Graves in Belgium.
Later on June 15, 2022, the U.S. government targeted
a Russian extremist group self-titled the Russian
Imperial Movement (RIM), formerly classified as a terrorist
group in April of 2020, and significantly limited their ability to
move funds by sanctioning their two most prominent leaders.
The rest of that month consisted of more Temporary
Denial Orders on airlines that continued to violate travel
sanctions, addressing evasion
attempts on Russian and Belarusian fronts to skirt around
financial sanctions, and creating even stricter access to companies
attempting to export
military supplies and other technologies to Russia.
To learn more about the sanctions imposed on Russia
and how that could affect your business, contact GVSU's Van
Andel Global Trade Center and sign up for our
5th Annual Summer Summit taking place on August 3,
2022, at the GVSU Alumni House.
is a Student Assistant at
GVSU’s Van Andel Global
. She is a Junior currently pursuing undergraduate degrees in
Finance and Human Resource Management at Grand Valley State
University. She enjoys lifting weights, getting lost in a good video
game, spending time with friends, and going on long hikes.
July 14, 2022